Friday, July 11, 2014

AFT Convention Roundup: Travel Day Part 2 - Common Core, Mulgrew Joins Caputo-Pearl and Lewis on Social Justice Unionism Panel -

See Part 1: LA Confidential: AFT Travel Day, Part 1

See - RBE at Perdido: Is Randi Weingarten REALLY Getting The Message?

NYC Educator touches on the AFT Convention: The Myth of the Myth of the Blogger Beast.

OK - lots to report in this part 2 of yesterday's activities - I'm writing this up Friday around 10AM while sitting at the press table listening to opening speeches so I will flip back and forth at times. Lots of rousing speeches -- and they will change little.

Note - convention is being live-streamed - - so I won't be taping much -- I will focus on the debates tomorrow and Sunday.

First let me catch up from yesterday: Thursday, July 10, 4-10 PM

Mulgrew on social justice unionism panel with Lewis and Caputo-Pearl

Some  people are raising questions on how Mulgrew got on Saturday's social justice unionism panel with LA Pres Alex Caputo-Pearl and Karen Lewis -- along with the St. Paul TU president who gets mixed reviews from real reformers ---  see the bottom of this piece for Lee Sustar's description and analysis.

Behind the scenes there is talk that the there was a lot of pressure to include Mulgew on the SJ panel so he can enforce his claim in NYC that Unity/UFT is a social justice organization doing similar work to other SJ unions -- oh, they love that astro-turf - never needs watering.

After the Chicago party I went with about 20 CTU folks to a place called Perch where you have to take 2 elevators and stairs and other paths to the top of a building with a great view and where if you drink too much... well - I took a gander and hit the wall - and with a long walk back to my hotel, left around 10PM.

Hanging with Jia Lee

There is no better way to spend a few hours than hanging out with Jia Lee (MORE, CTS) – as I find out since Jia is always doing so many things at once this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to just hang and chat. After we register we decide to get something to eat since for me it is around 7PM. We run into CTU folks who invite us to their reception tonight (7-9PM) at a place on 5th Street, just a few blocks from my hotel.

As we walked by the Progressive Caucus (national Unity but without the loyalty oath) table, we considered spending $25 each to join so we could go to their 5PM meeting to hear how they will try to trash the Chicago reso opposing common core. I like to expose the hypocrisy of the so-called progressive Unity people as they fall in line totally behind Randi -- message to Unity people who say Mulgrew is not totally in line with her.

It took us about 3 seconds to decide it wasn't worth it.

Over dinner we shared some interesting stories. I didn't know that Jia came to us 2 years ago after seeing our web site on our film. Since then she has been a whirlwind of activity as chapter leader, teacher, parent, opt-out activist and MOREista. She's staying out at her parents' house at Laguna Beach for the summer and we'll miss her but she will get some much needed down time. Let me say that it is Jia and people like her who will remake the UFT from the bottom up - but only if more like her have the same kind of switch turned on by some issue or event. That's how I count progress in growing an alternative to Unity -- by units of Jia.

We walked over to the Chicago event before 7PM in a very nice outdoor space. We were a bit early so we grabbed a table and called Mike Schirtzer to send some tranquilizers over the airwaves. (Is there a 3000 mile dart we can fire?) Mike was low-key after his trip to the World Cup in Brazil --- for a few days.

The place filled up - from a distance I saw Karen Lewis looking fabulous. Former CTU president Debbie Lynch, who won election as a reformer in 2001, was there, which seemed to surprise some people. Older CORE people had been part of Debbie's PACT Caucus which still ran in the 2010 election and got 15% of the vote which Debbie through to CORE in the runoff.

Meeting R.E.A.C.H. from Minn

After Jia went home I was invited to join a table of CTU and Minneapolis people. There were 5 ladies from REACH - a fairly new caucus - wearing the same red and white tees we have in MORE. What a great group of people who won 9 seats on the Ex Bd in the recent election and between high 30s and high 40s for officer positions. "But we didn't win an officer position," one of them said. I laughed just thinking that we will pass through a cycle of global warming and a new ice age before we win one here in NYC.

They've done quite well for a new caucus, as others around the nation have proved -- pressure on Randi from below -- but far from having an impact other than to get her to modify her rhetoric to appeal to the folks around the nation -- but none of them are buying it - at least from my conversations so far.

Some said they were inspired by our film to become active. "You know MORE stole the name we were considering for our caucus." What does REACH stand for? Rank and File Educators Advocating for Change - a mouthful. Someone suggested they could have used Mini-MORE. Another said MORE could also have called itself SORE. I loved meeting them - they are part of the national coalition. And also - St. Paul across the river has their own union -- they will be hosting the next AFT convention in 2016 - right after the UFT elects another 800 delegates - even if MORE got 49% of the vote, they would get no delegates. Let that day come and you will see a court case.

People were starting to leave so off to get another drink where a batch of people from various cities continued the discussions. The great parent activist from Philly, Helen Gym, was there and she filled us in on the horror story going on there. Helen also reminded us that she is keynoting a PAA event in Washington DC honoring Leonie Haimson on July 28.

Some discussions about the issues facing CORE and the CTU - firing so many teachers - some say Rahm's revenge for the strike, others that it might have been worse if the union had not been militant.

An interesting conversation with someone regarding how the AFT operates internationally -- don't we know that -- read the pamphlet I posted (Democracy and Politics in the UFT, 1976 Ed.) and also George Schmidt's AFT and CIA pamphlet.

And more talk about Mulgrew on the SJ panel and speculation on what went on behind the scenes.

Common Core to the fore - I'll be blogging about this throughout today and tomorrow.

The big discussions were about the common core battle to come over the next few days. A lot of CORE Chicago people trash the Randi CC multi-page unreadable reso on CC which endorses it. They say it is not amendable.

A text came in that Progressive Caucus had indeed rejected the Chicago common core reso.

Let me divert from Thurs to right now (Friday, 10:30 as I sit at the press table listening to speeches and waiting for Randi's keynote.)

I explain some of the process to go on today in these comments I left on RBE and Mercedes blogs upon speculation the AFT will move towards more militancy

Comment at Perdido: Is Randi Weingarten REALLY Getting The Message?
I am at the press table in front of the AFT right now as it opens. Last night Randi's Progressive Caucus - natl version of Unity without the loyalty oath - voted down the Chicago anti-common core reso -- today Chicago and Unity will continue to fight it out in the closed committee room - but we'll be outside getting reports of the battle - Unity will use very tactic to keep the Chicago reso from coming to the floor. Anything militant you hear coming from the Randi wing is pure rhetoric. Yesteday a retired Unity former official asked me if I thought the leadership would match NEA on the Duncan issue and laughed. Even some of them are cynical.
Mercedes thinks there will be a debate on CC as she warns the a fatally flawed CC can't be fixed. I'm not so sure the debate will go much beyond what we see at a UFT DA.

The Problem with the AFT Offer for Teachers to “Rewrite” the Common Core
I’m at the AFT convention and I am not sure there will be too much of an open debate on the floor. The Unity Caucus NYC crowd will be ready to stifle debate or cut it off like they do at Delegate Assemblies here in NYC. Last night the national version of Unity, Progressive Caucus – yeah, I know — voted down the Chicago reso and this afternoon the debate will take place behind closed doors in committee between Chicago and NYC — and the early betting is that Randi will win and the committee will bring out 3 resos for debate on the floor — and will endorse the Randi one. That means the debate may involve amending what is an awful reso – there will be a lot of out of order calls and Randi’s troops will surround the mics. A CTU member asked me how much earlier they should get there to be near the mics – an hour, she asked? “Better be there the day before,” I said.
Lee Sustar on the panel:
...panel discussion on social movement unionism sponsored by the CTU and UTLA, which will bring together polar opposites among AFT local leaders.
On the left is CTU President Karen Lewis and UTLA's Alex Caputo-Pearl, who both have long records of organizing alongside community allies as well as experience as tough union activists on the job.
On the right is United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew, who recently presided over passage of a concessionary contract for New York City teachers [10] that spreads out sub-inflation retroactive pay from years without a contract until 2020, brings in merit pay, weakens job security for displaced teachers, opens the way for union-bashing "thin" contracts at 200 schools, and locks in a punitive evaluation system.
It isn't quite clear what Mulgrew--whose local is the power base of the AFT--will have to say about social movement unionism, since he kept the UFT membership in the dark during negotiations, and community mobilization for the contract was precisely zero.
Another panelist will be Mary Cathryn Ricker, president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers and a major player in the AFT hierarchy. After a recent successful contract campaign with community outreach that was influenced by the CTU, Ricker may have more credibility than Mulgrew in attempting to square the circle between the AFT's bold position papers and its actual policy of retreat.
Whether or not sparks fly at this discussion or on the AFT convention floor, the debate over the direction of teacher unionism will continue. At the center of the discussion is an emerging national network of teacher union militant caucuses [11], a few of which, like Chicago's Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, hold union office.
We have a bunch of MORE folk going to Chicago in a few weeks for this national meeting. What is disappointing is that there has been no attempt to get people together here this week in LA given that so many people are here already. To me a missed opportunity. Only out of this group will come any serious opposition to Randi nationally. But not this year. As far as I can tell she is running unopposed.

12 noon - watching videos -- when a clip came up on how bad the VAM formulas - some of us on the press table looked at each other, incredulous since Randi and Mulgrew supported them.

Randi is back - screeching -  "I'm with my homies in the UFT" - she took a selfie after someone showed her how to do it - I recognize one of the classic Unity slugs.

She's now strolling the aisles doing Oprah.

She just asked BadAss teachers to stand up. Where's Naison?

She's baaack - on stage -  to give the keynote - crap - was going to head over to press area for some m&ms.

Ya think if I laid down on the rug and took a nap someone would notice? I'll set the alarm and get back to you later with the common core.

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